Quote/Unquote: Jelena McWilliams


Jelena McWilliams, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., recently spoke at the annual Wisconsin Bankers Association conference at The Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. She was interviewed by Dave Werner, president and chief executive officer of Park Bank, and Rose Oswald Poels, president and CEO of WBA. McWilliams has been chairman since May 2018, when she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a five-year term at the helm of the independent federal agency, which insures deposits of U.S. banks and thrifts against failure. She was previously executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary for Fifth Third Bank.

“I am reconstituting how we do business at the FDIC. … So I’m eating lunch in the cafeteria, I’ve delegated a lot of things to capable staff and make sure they understand with delegation comes authority. So I think more of our decision-making should be given to the regions and our local examiners.”


“I came to the United States 27 years ago from former Yugoslavia in search of a better life, frankly. … I applied for a credit card but I was denied because I didn’t have any credit history or a job. … That’s how I ended up integrating myself into the financial system in the United States and why some of the initiatives coming out of the FDIC – small dollar lending and reaching out to consumers who are not a part of the mainstream financial system – is important.”


“From 2010 to 2016, we have had two de novos and we have lost hundreds of banks in the financial crisis. Then there is also the consolidation that is taking place in the industry, so we are losing banks. And I don’t know what the right number of banks in the United States is.”


“It’s not the nature of the regulatory agency to declutter. We’re like (Marie Kondo’s) worst nightmare. So you get myriad regulations and guidances and guidelines addressing the same thing, and one is from ‘94, one is from ‘97, one is from 2004. But in 2004 we didn’t say the other ones are rescinded.”


“Every community loses when they lose a bank. The point of our regulatory system in D.C. needs to be such that we are cognizant of the economic impact banks have on their communities and how they serve their communities and be able to create a regulatory environment that is conducive to banks being able to prosper.”

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